The Artist’s Palate in Poughkeepsie, NY
This weekend Mr. X and I went to Duchess County, New York, to visit his Ma for Mother’s Day. I’d never been to the area and jesus christ, he wasn’t kidding–It’s really, really green this time of year. I mean, the Boston area has been green but it doesn’t even come close to the greeness of the Hudson River Valley. It was a little overwhelming.
We spent most of the day Saturday driving around, checking out Mr. X’s stomping grounds: the elementary school, the cornfield he drove his car through, a few of the many, many restaurants he worked in. It was a spectacularly pretty day and the night ended with some delicious tacos and margaritas as a place in Tivoli. The next morning we took a tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion and checked out the Culinary Institute (way bigger and more grand than I expected).
Then we went out with his ma to a late lunch at a new restaurant in Poughkeepsie, The Artist’s Palate. I gotta say, I don’t think the name is very good, but the food and atmosphere more than made up for it. The place is huge and airy, with streamlined tables and chairs and an excellent collection of jazz posters on the walls. The wait staff were all great: friendly, helpful, and good looking, to boot. Even the bathrooms were impressive.
The whole presentation was lovely and timed perfectly. Before our appetizer showed up, our waitress brought us all a little taste of cold borscht, one of my favorite soups. Borscht can be overwhelmingly beety, but the chef balanced the flavor well with something piquant and just an infinitesimally amount spicy. I suspect an entire bowl of the stuff might have been too much to take, but as an amuse bouche it worked.
We ordered an antipasto/charcuterie plate as an appetizer, which made Mr. X happy. Actually it made us all happy: parma ham, prosciutto, sopressata, salami, aged provolone, ricotta salata, gorgonzola, olives, roasted red peppers, and some kind of marinated beans (butter beans? I’m not sure what they are, but they were great). The flavors were really well balanced, and the bread basket came with a sun-dried tomato pesto that was perfectly salty and oily and tart and sweet. There was some kind of herbed soft corn muffins in the bread basket that were really unique and I want to figure out how to make them. I love cheese. Cheese cheese cheese.
Before the entrees they brought out some tiny little salads with a unique vinaigrette, and I thought it was a nice touch.
I ordered the Blackened Red Snapper with an Avocado Salsa Fresca. I hardly ever order fish in restaurants, but I’m super glad I chose this–it was perfectly cooked, flaky and moist and still firm enough not to feel mushy to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had red snapper before, but I might have to make it a more regular addition to my kitchen. And it was perfectly seasoned–not so blackened that it burned my face off, but with a nice, subtly spicy crust. The avocados were actually ripe and firm (such a rarity out here), and although the grape tomatoes weren’t exactly perfect (not quite in season yet, I guess) they were still plenty flavorful. And there was a lovely pyramid of some kind of very black, aromatic rice that was unfamiliar to me, but delicious.
Mr. X. commented that the plating was Culinary Institute all the way. Predictable, maybe, but still pretty.
Mr. X ordered Venison, which I haven’t had since I was a little, little girl. Apparently, it’s pretty common on menus in the area. It was served with a pomengranate sauce, mashed potatoes, and very fresh looking and beautiful vegetables. The venison was perfectly cooked, but not as gamey-flavored as I would have expected. I’m not sure how gamey venison usually tastes–like I said, it’s been awhile. Enough of awhile that I could pretty much say I’d never had it before. But it was very moist and flavorful and lovely looking, which is pretty much what I can say about that. The mashed potatoes had a great texture, but were a little bit bland. You could really taste the potatoes, though, which can be a good thing.
Mr. X’s mom ordered lamb with chickpea puree (i.e. hummus), which tasted awesome. Unfortunately, the picture I took of that came out ridiculously blurry. It doesn’t even look like food. It was a surprisingly large lamb tenderloin, but it was well-cooked and very subtly lamb-y.
And dessert? Well, if they have a dessert sampler, please. Of course! It came with a few bites each of creme brulee (awesome! Very slightly lemony and with a perfect crust), warm chocolate cake (dense, moist, with a liquidy fudgy center, yay awesome sugar overload setting in), key lime pie (insanely tart and just the right amount of sweet and yumm), and carrot cake (um, we didn’t really eat the carrot cake because who wants carrots in dessert and it was a little dry, but the cream cheese frosting was perfect).
A glass of some kind of malbec with the snapper was quite tasty, as well, and they had an interesting looking cocktail menu. The chef, Charlie something, came over and chatted for a second, and everyone was really nice and friendly. Is it a small town thing? I don’t know, but it was nice, for a change. All in all, six thumbs up and a lovely Mother’s Day lunch. Then we got back on the road and drove through more greenery to come back to Boston, sated and happy.